Esther Hindley obituary

Other lives: Nurse whose hospital in the East End of London was bombed during the blitz

My aunt Esther Hindley, who has died aged 95, was a nurse who worked before and after the inception of the NHS, of which she was a passionate advocate. She spent the whole of her career at the London hospital (now the Royal London), in the East End of the city, and would recall in great detail the bombing of the hospital during the second world war.

Very protective of her NHS patients, she once got into trouble for complaining when the former prime minister Harold Macmillan was in the hospital recovering from surgery, as one of her night sisters was allocated to him alone, leaving only three between the remaining 600 patients.

Born in Cambridge, Esther was the first child of Frances (nee Parker) and Eric Hindley. Her early years were spent on the edge of Rugby, Warwickshire, beside the Grand Union canal, where she developed a love of narrowboating. However, her father had a mental illness, and after he was admitted to hospital the family went to live with her grandparents in Cambridge.

In the 1930s the family moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire, where her father, an Anglican priest, had obtained work. She spent her happiest childhood years there, with her younger brothers, John and Chris, and her red setter, Mickey.

From 1935 she boarded at Brackley high school, Northamptonshire, after which she trained as a nurse at the London. As a student during the second world war she became familiar with the sound of the German V1 and V2 rocket bombs. Esther qualified in 1946 and started working at the London as a junior staff nurse on the surgical wards.

By 1970 she had risen to the position of senior nursing officer. Five years later she was involved in organising the response to the Moorgate tube train crash, in which 43 people died.

Esther combined her professional career with caring for her parents, in particular her father, who died in 1965. She retired from nursing at 59 following surgery for acoustic neuroma, which caused a loss of hearing in her left ear.

Esther had a strong Christian faith. After her mother’s death in 1983, she moved to Leatherhead, Surrey, where she volunteered to help people with dementia, at her local church, St Mary and St Nicholas, and at a night shelter.

A Guardian reader, she engaged with the world throughout her life. She travelled extensively with her family and friends, to Europe, New Zealand and Canada, alongside her many narrowboat holidays in the UK.

In 2016 Esther entered a care home near the Regent’s canal in Islington, north London, where she was loved, respected and regarded as the honorary matron.

Esther had the capacity to keep others in mind and for them to know it. She knew where all her nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces and her great-grandniece were, and what they were doing. In turn we adored her.

She is survived by us and by her brother John. Chris died in 2016.

Peter Hindley

The GuardianTramp

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